Six Valuable Lessons I Learned Writing my Latest Book

For me, writing a book is like giving birth to a rose bush.  The end product is so wonderful but the process is quite painful.   I learned some lessons writing my latest book “Fully Alive”  that will hopefully take some of the pain out of the next project.      

Write often

I hadn’t written a book in ten years and when I started this one, I was rusty.  Once I settled into a routine of writing 500 to 1000 words a day I began to write better.  Near the end of my book my writing required almost no editing.  I have written 10 published books but i learned that to be a good writer it is important to write constantly.  The more you write the better you get.  Even if you are not an author, journal your thoughts and experiences daily.  Your children and grandchildren will treasure the record and you will become a better communicator.

Observe life

Your research and writing are essential to the completion of any book but your ability to observe and allow every day experience to bring life to your book can make the difference between a page turner and a yawner.

Organize early

I wasted hours trying to find pieces of my book that I had worked hard to craft.  It is worth every second of time to carefully build and organize files where you can keep and find your work.  Thoughts about stories and ideas do not always come in the same order they will appear in the book.  Record them immediately.  Develop the thought in more detail at the nearest convenient time.  Then name it and file it.

Consolidate daily

Lets see.  Did I write that idea on a napkin?  Did I record it on my phone?   Where is that story about gambling?   I guarantee that ten years from now I will find notes scrawled on and old tee shirt that contain some magical whimsy that never made the pages of the book. Every day consolidate all the ideas you have recorded on paper, your phone, your computer, in some dark recess of your brain into one organized file.  I can tell you from experience that if you wait you will forget or lose good material.  I wasted hours looking for material that could have been found in seconds if I had taken the time to consolidate and file it.

Communicate verbally

Talk with your editors by phone.  Do not depend only on e-mail and edited hard copy for creative development that really needs a conversation.  Some of the most valuable time with my editors was spent face to face.

Edit ruthlessly  

The more you edit the better your work will gets.  Ruthlessly remove every unneeded word.  Replace fuzzy nouns with ones that paint a visual picture.  You might be more tempted to read about six valuable lessons than six things.  One of my friends had an English teacher who would fail any paper that contained the words “things” or “stuff.  She would say. “If you ask me to join you in the mountains where there are trees and things, I am not coming until I find out what the things are.”

Do you have helpful lessons you have learned from writing?   I will add them to my list.

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34 thoughts on “Six Valuable Lessons I Learned Writing my Latest Book

  1. GREAT post Ken and very good advice for aspiring authors and or bloggers!

    I’d add one more lesson I had to learn…thicken your skin. Writing is our job, editing is the editors job and sometimes the edit hurts. But trust that they are as passionate about their work as you are about your work and in the end you’ll produce a better product!

    Thanks again for these great reminders!

    Jay

  2. Wonderful ideas, Ken; very helpful! Thank you for sharing. About “your children and grandchildren will treasure the record…” I told my 9 year old granddaughter I was writing another book about my life’s humorous experiences. She said, “Well, Gramma, I don’t want to offend you but I probably won’t read it since you tell me stories from your life all the time.” I laughed!

  3. As a freelance writer for over 20 years I learned to put boundaries on the things that would distract me from my writing time, like phones, tv and kids. My son knew if he came to ask a question during my “work time” I would ask, “Are you on fire, bleeding, or have you lost a limb or kidney?” If the answer was no, he went back to what he was doing until the timer sounded to let him know my work time was over.

    Additionally I would let voicemail get the phone and unplug the tv so if I went to turn it on, it wouldn’t work and remind me to head back to the computer.

    • Pat,

      Great comment. I find that I write best with no distractions. That’s why it is so hard to write on airplanes. So much noise and distraction. Thank you for this great additional lesson.

      Ken

  4. Is it okay that I’m noticing typos in a post that talks specifically about cleaning up the writing? Something about all I’ve seen from you makes me think you left (or even placed) them there on purpose! :o)

    • Becky,

      Yes it is okay! If I gave the same scrutiny to my blogs as I gave to my books, I would never get a blog written. The typos are not there of purpose. The more I write the better I get at content but I am still a loser when it comes to punctuation and typos. That’s why I hire and editor. I usually edit a blog once and then pull the trigger. You will find many typos in my blogs. BTW. It would be helpful for me if you identify the ones you found in this post.

      KEn Not counting the capital E in KEn. (-;

  5. I had an English teacher that refused to accept the word lot, as in a lot of stuff. She said a lot is a measure of land. That lesson was in the fifth grade and fifty five years later it’s still in my thought process. Thank God for good English teachers. Thank you for your writing tips.

  6. I have found that setting aside large blocks of time to write helps me focus and push deeper into the ideas I’m having.

    Good advice Ken!

    Writing is a painful process no matter who you are!

  7. I have no tips on writing but here is a question from someone who is nuts about reading, and where would you all be without us, after all? Is your book going to be availabe as an e-book for us technophiles?

  8. Ken: Great post. Don’t forget hiring a decent agent who pays attention to the deal points, keeps up with the process, showers now and then and doesn’t drink too much.

  9. Ken, I resonated with this post so much! When I was writing Good Grief! I had to get a small notebook that I literally carried around with me everywhere and had on my night stand when I went to bed. Like you, 10 years from now, I will probably STILL find napkins and post-its, but hopefully NOT the take-out Taco Bell bag that I wrote ideas on! Oh, and Editing… the evil E word… my husband actually asked at one point, “When are you going to be done editing?” And I said, “When I read through the chapter and don’t want to change anything!” =)

    • Erica,

      And I said, “When I read through the chapter and don’t want to change anything!” =) That only happens when Jesus comes. Eventually ya just pull the trigger and let er fly.

      Ken

  10. Great advice. I love that analogy of giving birth to a rose bush! Did you also experience months of false labor? I’d add a seventh lesson, below your powerful point about editing ruthlessly (as I reader, I so appreciate that!), use lots of beta readers, searching diligently for those with keen insight into structure and detail as well as those eagle-eyed proof readers who pick up every typo and misspelling.

  11. Excellent advice!!! I am an aspiring writer so I’m reading stuff (yes that was intentional haha) all the time. Another good tip is to read lots of books and watch lots of movies…I find that someone else’s idea triggers a new idea from myself, then you morph the idea a bit so you can’t tell which movie I watched last and Voila!
    Thanks again for the advice…it will help me with my (hopefully) future career.
    Jarrad

    • Jarrad,

      Synergy is the secret to success. Nothing will brighten your writing like the ideas of other people igniting ideas of your own.

      Ken

  12. Ken,

    Thank you for writing such an honest post about writing your book! My husband and I JUST finished our first book that is being published by Tyndale. I loved reading this post and found it encouraging to read that your journey was similar to ours. I struggled with writing and spelling most of my childhood until this glorious program called Microsoft Word was created 🙂 The fact that I’ve now written a book is mind blowing. The biggest lesson we have learned while in the writing process is JUST WRITE. Even when thoughts don’t make sense or your ideas are incomplete these are the words that lead you to the right ones.

    Thank you again for this post!

    Trish

  13. I believe your first point is the most important.

    By writing often, you’re exercising your creativeness. Building the muscles needed to create even greater works.

    It’s something I need to get back in the habit of. At one point, I was creating new content Monday through Friday and publishing three days a week. I cut back and feel like my creativity has suffered.

    Thanks for the kick in the rear!

  14. Somehow my apostrophes became backwards between
    when I wrote them, and when they showed up in the
    final proof. I cannot figure that one out.

  15. Awesome Ken! I have written my life story for my kids, also a teen devotional, a devotional of truck driving, and many more ideas but not sure what t do with them next. Would love to share them with the world. I really would like to use what God has done in my life to encourage others to know and follow Christ. I love your books, videos, and your heart for God. Looking forward to reading “Fully Alive”. Thanks Ken. Marty from MinneSNOWta

  16. Great post, Ken. I am self-publishing my first book now. It’s a memoir, and it took me one year to write it and 13 years to revise it! I think my biggest lesson was to read and re-read the manuscript many times to determine if every single vignette moves the story forward and contributes to the narrative arc. If it doesn’t, it has to be deleted.